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Thrift store shopping in Bergen, Norway

    After spending a couple of days in Oslo and then a day in Kirkenes , Norway, I boarded the Hurtigruten coastal cruiser “Midnatsol” for a week-long cruise south along the coast to Bergen.

    Each day I walked down to the gift shop on deck 5 to look at the beautiful Dale of Norway sweaters. The heavy hand-knitted sweaters are iconic Norwegian. They're beautiful and they're expensive. The women’s sweaters, usually in the $200 to $350 range, can sell for as much as $600.

    At the end of the cruise, when we docked in Bergen, I checked into my hotel and went for a walk through the neighborhood. Almost immediately I noticed a rack of beautiful vintage Norwegian sweaters through the window of the Fretex, or Salvation Army, thrift store which was exactly what I'd been hoping for.  (When I traveled to Iceland I picked up my prized Icelandic sweater at the same kind place.) It was too late to shop but I was there when the store opened the next morning.

    The sweaters were older versions of what I'd seen on the ship and in store windows down by the touristy section of town. The most expensive, a long red Dale of Norway sweater was priced at only $83.  I was tempted and tried it on but it was too big. That’s how it goes when you’re thrift shopping. Sometimes you win, sometimes you don’t.

    I moved on to the books where I spent the next hour, my head tilted at an angle as I moved along reading titles. There were pre-war schoolbooks, beautifully illustrated art books and even Norwegian translations of American classics like Margaret Mitchell's “Gone with the Wind.”

    I looked through the household items and was seriously tempted by a partial spice set with the names of the spices written in curling script on the front but let them stay. They were pretty to look at but not something I needed or would use.

    I did leave Bergen with one vintage souvenir, though: a small hotel-silver coffee pot. I didn't recognize the hallmarks on the bottom but it is heavy and in great condition. Perfect for serving coffee or hot chocolate on the patio, or by the fireplace in cold weather.

    I'm bringing home the usual assortment of standard souvenirs for my family but so far, with reindeer antlers, the vintage coffee pot and sea glass I picked up by a fjord, my own keepsakes from my trip to Norway are more unique and personal.

    And that’s exactly why I’ll treasure them the most, of course.

Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a travel writer whose audio essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of ‘Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons’ and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com

“Why do we give them money?”

It didn't just start happening this season.

But have you noticed how often parents have their young children be the ones to put some money in the Salvation Army kettles?

You have to think the subsequent family conversations are talks worth having. 

Bloem Vs. Clark In Xmas Ring-Off

I always knew I’d one day have to step in and do the mayor’s dirty work. Not that I’d characterize helping a charity as dirty. But when Spokane Mayor David Condon wimped out, The Salvation Army emailed me to ask if I would “serve as Mayor Pro Tem” in its annual red kettle Ring Off against Coeur d’Alene Mayor Sandi Bloem. Who am I to dodge the Army? Well, except for the time I ran off to college in 1969, that is. So mark your calendars for Dec. 15. That’s the day you’ll want to stop by the Spokane Fred Meyer store on Thor, between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. I’ll be there along with a soon-to-be-named “Dream Team” of yuletide jingle-janglers. … Meanwhile, over in the Lake City, Bloem and her minions will be ringing away at the Fred Meyer. The less said about the opposition the better. The contest is simple: Whoever raises the most money wins bragging rights/Doug Clark, SR. More here.

Question: Who do you think'll win?

Backpacks for Kids

The Salvation Army is once again collecting donations of school supplies for its annual Backpacks for Kids program. Low income children are given a backpack full of the school supplies they will need. There are several collection sites in Spokane Valley and Liberty Lake, including at Dishman Dodge (7614 E. Sprague), the Fred Meyer at Sprague and Sullivan, the Home Depot in Liberty Lake and all local Mountain West Bank and Rite Aid locations.

Parents interested in receiving backpacks for their children should call 325-6821. The distribution day will be on Aug. 23.

Kroc Center’s Chamnesses Promoted

Majors John and Lani Chamness of Coeur d'Alene's Salvation Army Kroc Center are being transferred to new positions as the divisional commanders of the Hawaii and Pacific Island Division of The Salvation Army in June. The Chamnesses have been with The Salvation Army Kroc Center in Coeur d’Alene since its inception in 2006. They helped lead the initial bid to bring a Kroc Center to Coeur d’Alene, and subsequently spearheaded the planning and construction of the building. Both majors have served as an integral part of center, overseeing pre-development, fundraising, planning of Kroc Church, creation of the advisory board and more … Kroc Center Associate Officer Major Ben Markham will be stepping into the role of Kroc Center executive director/Kroc Center news release. More here. (2006 SR file photo: Major John M. Chamness, left, of The Salvation Army shakes hands after learning Coeur d’Alene was selected as a site for a $65 million Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center)

CDAJim: I am saddened, but not surprised to hear of their well-deserved promotion back to the area where Lani’s family lives and where they were stationed in the past. John and Lani are incredibly dedicated to The Salvation Army’s mission of “Doing the Most Good” which they have shown that since they first arrived in our area. I know they will continue that dedication for many, many years to come. A very sincere “God Speed and Aloha”.

Question: Have you had the pleasure to know the Chamnesses during their time in Coeur d'Alene?

Bloem, Verner To Bell Ring

Coeur d'Alene Mayor Sandi Bloem, left, and Spokane Mayor Mary Verner have challenged each other to see whose city can raise the most money to help support their community. Each Mayor will be hosting a Salvation Army Red Kettle at a participating Fred Meyer location this Saturday, from 9am-8pm. Kettles will be tallied mid-day, and the city with the highest grossing kettle at the end of the day wins. Mayor Sandi Bloem is scheduled to staff the Red Kettle at Fred Meyer in Coeur d'Alene from 9am to 11am, and will also be visiting her kettle throughout the day. The remaining hours will be staffed with Salvation Army Advisory Board members, community volunteers, and/or paid workers. Mayor Mary Verner is scheduled to staff the Red Kettle at the Thor/Freya Fred Meyer in Spokane from 10am to 11am. The remaining hours will be staffed with community volunteers and/or paid workers/Salvation Army Kroc Center news release. More here.

Question: Who do you think will win? Why?

Bell Ringer Gives Voice To Christmas

David Farmer uses the power of his voice to encourage people to give. The Salvation Army bell ringer abandoned his bell to sing by the donation box instead.Farmer turned the Safeway in Coeur d'Alene into his stage on Wednesday. His audience was made up of people coming in out and of the store.Farmer described himself like a juke box. He runs through the first verse of 16 different carols over and over again through out the day.Farmer has turned heads and been called amazing. But for the 63-year-old, he's out there to encourage people to donate/Anusha Roy, KXLY. More here (including video)

Question: Do you prefer your Salvation Army bellringers to sing or just ring their bells?

Singing For Their Supper

A passerby slips money into the donation kettle as Salvation Army's Mathew Niblack belts out a tune in front of the Fred Meyer in Port Orchard, Wash. in Port Orchard, Wash., Wednesday. Story here. (AP Photo/Kitsap Sun, Meegan M. Reid)

Question: Do you contribute to the red kettles on your way into a store or on way out? Also, do you ever give more than $1?

Basketball game pits SPD v. SCSO

Employees from the Spokane County Sheriff's Office and the Spokane Police Department will compete in a basketball game for charity tonight.

The game begins at 7 p.m. at the Hub Sports Center, 19619 E. Cataldo Ave. The location is east of Barker Road behind Freedom RV.

Admission is $3. Proceeds benefit the Salvation Army. Attendees are asked to donate non-perishable food items.

Bell-ringing record shattered

Captain Kyle Smith, of the Salvation Army, mans his post outside the Northpoint Walmart, Dec. 17,  in Spokane. Smith was trying to break the record for continuous bell ringing. He was hoping to stay for 32 hours – and did.

He rang in the morning. He rang at night. He rang in the sunshine. He rang in the snow. For 36 hours, Salvation Army Corps Capt. Kyle Smith stood by his red kettle and rang his bell. By doing so, he shattered the previous world bell-ringing record of 30.5 hours. Read more. Cindy Hval/SR

Is there a world record that you would like to set?

TF Reporter Bell Rings For 3 Hours

In Twin Falls, News-Times reporter Amy Huddleston discovered what life was like on the other side of the little silver bell that rings out from various stores during the holiday season. She rang a Salvation Army bell for three hours. Writes she: “I was given a bell, a red kettle, a very large red coat with the words ‘Salvation Army, Doing the Most Good’ printed on the front and a post outside the Magic Valley Mall food court.” Also, she was told “to smile, ring the bell nicely and tell people ‘God Bless’ because as (a Salvation Army official) said, ‘we are a church first of all’”/Amy Huddleston, Twin Falls Times-News. More here. (AP file photo)

Question: Do you drop a dollar or so into the collection plate every time you encounter a Salvation Army bell ringer? Or every other time? Or sometimes? Or never?

INW: Volleyball, Not Snow Shuts Shop

The Salvation Army store on 3rd Street in Havre, Mont., closed early today, at 3 p.m., not for any weather-related reason, but for a beach volleyball tournament. (AP Photo/Havre Daily News, Zach White)

Shoppers turn burglars after store closes

Burglars stole nearly $1,000 in merchandise from the Salvation Army thrift store in Spokane over the weekend.

The intruders apparently entered the store at 2020 N. Division Street when it was open and were able to stay inside after it closed Saturday at 5 p.m., according to the Salvation Army.

Several boxes of merchandise were stolen from large display cases, including jewelry and other expensive items.

The thieves broke the fire exit as they fled, according to a news release.

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Check at (509) 456-2233.

Today Is National Doughnut Day

It sounds made up (National Donut Day). But (today’s) sugary celebration is actually a real holiday. In fact, since 1938, the first Friday in June has been celebrated as National Donut Day. Its beginnings were sweet and meaningful…and its modern-day meaning is pretty sweet too. National Donut Day now means a free-sugar-crawl around town grabbing up all of the free donuts that national and local chains offer. The holiday was initiated by the Salvation Army as a nod to the women who served donuts to soldiers during the first World War/RedPlum. More here.

Question: What is your favorite kind of doughnut? And/or: Do you really think cops eat too many doughnuts?

One Little Bell

     Standing just beside the front door of the busy store, bundled up to stay warm in weather that has turned brutal over night, she sees all kinds of people in the weeks leading up to Christmas.
    She sees the ones who are determined, who get there early, walking up to the door with a purposeful stride. They’ve got a list. A timeline. A budget. They’re in charge.

    She can tell who is just out for the fun of it,  happy to listen to canned carols playing over the sound system. Feeding off the energy of the crowd and the season. Bargain hunting as a sport.

    She watches the children in hats and mittens, along for the ride, holding onto a parent’s hand, being pulled along as they dawdle, stopping to stare at the Christmas displays, or to peer into the shiny red kettle in front of her as they drop in a coin.
    She sees the others; the ones who are tightlipped with worry. Who carry purses and wallets that don’t hold near enough to buy what they’d hoped to get. Those who don’t have enough for what they need; forget about the extras. They walk into the store like tired soldiers heading into a battle. Already outgunned and out of ammunition.

     She stands there, ringing the bell, shifting her weight from foot to foot trying to stay warm, watching us all come and go…

The Real Bells Of Christmas

 A bell ringer for the Salvation Army solicits donations on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, New York, Wednesday.  (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Question: How often do you give to the Salvation Army bellringers during the yuletide: Every time you hear the bells ringing? Occasionally, if I have loose change? Rarely? Other?